For many veterans, the long-term health consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder are only now coming to light. According to new research, Vietnam veterans who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after returning from combat duty are at a much higher risk of suffering a heart attack.
The study was sponsored by the US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The researchers analyzed cases involving 562 pairs of middle-aged twins. Of these, 342 were identical twins, and the remaining were fraternal twins. All of these were veterans of the Vietnam War.
The researchers found that, among the group of veterans who had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, 27 percent also suffered from heart disease. In the other group consisting of veterans who did not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the heart disease rate was just 9%.
The results were similar even when the researchers compared twins with each other. For instance, they found that when one twin had post-traumatic stress disorder, and the other did not, 22% of twins with post-traumatic stress disorder suffered heart disease, while close to 13% percent of the twins who did not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder suffered heart disease.
The strong association between post traumatic stress disorder and heart disease among Vietnam veterans seemed to stay consistent even when the researchers accounted for other lifestyle factors, like smoking habits, alcohol use, physical activity levels, and depression.
The results of the study which were published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology seem to indicate very strongly, that there is a substantial link between post-traumatic stress disorder and the development of heart disease in the future.